Question: It is sometimes said that we, as the Immortal Soul, are beyond both the seer and the seen. At other times I have heard that we are the witness. These two statements seem conflicting, which is true?
This is something like, when the droplet of the ocean has come out of the ocean, so that droplet is trying to visualize the ocean. Though the droplet is unable to see the ocean as it is, with its own imagination it would be trying to visualize. Whatever that droplet visualizes, that becomes the seen and the droplet becomes the seer. In the same way the small spark of consciousness that has come out of the actual Self has become the mind with its thoughts. With its own imagination it is trying to visualize the Self or this world, anything. Whatever it is trying to visualise with its imagination is the seen and that mind becomes a seer. Actually neither the mind, nor anything that it has visualized exists. Just like the ray that has come out of the sun, that ray is trying to imagine about the sun and visualize, but the sun's ray itself does not exist. Only an illusion of object when it comes then it appears as the sun's ray has come out onto that object. Here it is because of the illusion of the mind's own imagination this seer and seen are appearing. Otherwise, the actual Self is beyond both the seer and seen. Just like the actual ocean is beyond the droplet and whatever that droplet has imagined, the actual Self is beyond the mind or whatever the mind is trying to visualize.
A witness means the mind or the soul's consciousness is actually only a witness to what is happening, but it does not technically in any way get involved in any of the universal things, the world's objects. Just like the mind has been made to watch a movie in the cinema. It would be watching. When it is watching it is only a witness actually. But because the consciousness of that mind gets sucked into the movie, the mind forgets that it is only a witness. It starts imagining as if it has got involved in that movie and it experiences with its own consciousness of imagination. Just like one would start thinking that one would compare oneself into the movies and have the good or bad, the happiness or unhappiness. It would appear as if it were happening to you, to the mind, whereas actually nothing is happening. Neither sorrow nor happiness is happening, but still the mind imagines. So that is how, though the mind is a witness still it imagines.
So this is why a sadhak (spiritual aspirant) is also taught during meditation sadhana, try to become a witness when the thought processes arise. Those thought processes are already imagined things that are getting evaporated from the subconscious state. The mind is getting purified, because every time the mind imagines or analyzes or judges it absorbs an imprint also. These imprints are the things that trouble a person into unhappiness, tension and fear psychosis, all these things do happen. If this mind gets purified, then the mind becomes eligible to go back to the Self. When this sadhana is happening, if the mind can maintain a witness state and understand that "I am nothing to do with these thoughts, I am really not involved, it is not the fault of the mind." So, if the mind can remain a witness there, then the mind can recede and go towards the Self. These are the differences of seer, seen and witness, all these things.
When the mind gets totally absorbed into the Self then there is neither the seer nor the seen, there is nobody else. As Ramakrishna used to explain, when the salt doll wants to know the depth of the sea, as long as it is outside the sea it wants to know the depth of the sea, but yet it is unable to measure the depth of the sea until and unless it jumps into the sea. But, when it jumps into the sea to find out its depth it becomes one with the sea and there is neither salt doll, nor anything that the salt doll wanted to be measured. Simply an ocean exists.
Here also, when the mind becomes absorbed into the Self, only that Self exists actually. There is neither the mind, nor is there anything that the mind wanted to know.